To register its presence in the pools of one of the European competitions, the F91 must pass the Pyunik obstacle, which it approaches confidently, this Tuesday evening in Yerevan, in the second round of the Champions League.
There are assistants who are a little more exposed than others. Right arm of a technician a little warmer than the Grand Ducal average, in this case Carlos Fangueiro, which sometimes causes the latter to see red and be deprived of a bench, Mehdi El Alaoui is now used to to ensure the interim as “T1”.
This will be the case this evening, from 8 p.m. (6 p.m. Luxembourg time), at the Vazgen Sargsian stadium, where the Portuguese will take his place in the stands – (like his counterpart from FC Pyunik Egishe Melikyan, excluded during the 1er round return to Cluj), consequence of his expulsion last Tuesday in Albania, following the possible offside marring the reduction of the score of KF Tirana – and where his faithful second will be in the front line, in the technical area.
Not particularly a problem, even though the use of a telephone or headset is prohibited as a main coach, as the two men are connected. El Alaoui recalled yesterday at a press conference, one of his other temporary obligations: “With Carlos, we work all year together, we exchange a lot, we are aligned”. Inseparable since 2018 and their collaboration in Givry (Belgium), it is therefore together that Fangueiro and El Alaoui have studied the champion of Armenia, who returned to the national throne in May after seven years of scarcity.
Pyunik, already a team?
All but obvious: since his coronation, Pyunik has changed a lot, recording 15 arrivals, including loan returns, and 16 departures, including those of his two top scorers: Portuguese striker Hugo Firmino and Venezuelan attacking midfielder José Caraballo, authors 18 and 8 pawns respectively in 2021/2022. Thus, the only meetings rich in reliable information of the club of the capital were those which it disputed against the Romanians of Cluj at the 1er round (0-0 in the first leg, 2-2 in the return), out on penalties.
Two matches is not enough to get a clear idea of a team, but it is enough for the Armenian international midfielder (3 caps) Hovhannes Harutyunyan to consider that Pyunik is “already one”, and for Carlos Fangueiro know roughly what to expect this evening in the sultry Yerevan, where the thermometer should still show 32 or 33 degrees at kick-off.
The technician who, with the rise of Sylvio Ouassiero on the right, the return from suspension of Mehdi Kirch on the left and the temporary maintenance at the peak of Mohcine Hassan (read framed), will be able to align his typical team of the moment, thus noted two things: the Armenian 3-4-3 “leaves a lot of space between the lines” and the local defensive alignment is sometimes random. Two shortcomings which he intends to take advantage of, in particular to “find movements in depth”.
In Tirana, his team had shown themselves to be extremely efficient in transition after the break, and the fact of relying this evening on a complete and efficient defense should allow Dudelange to continue in this mode. It remains to be seen whether Pyunik will come looking for it as high as Tirana from the first minutes, while everything will remain open, or whether the Armenians will initially bet on a lower block.
Thinking of Belgrade… and CSKA Moscow
No matter: the F91, Mehdi El Alaoui assures him, has “prepared for both options”. A speech that is reminiscent of the one before the 1er return tour of Carlos Fangueiro who, depending on whether his team was in a hurry or expected, would have a plan whatever happened.
While no favorite emerges on paper from this duel favorable to Dudelange if we are to believe the UEFA index (8,500 against 4,250), but if we rely on the estimated value of the workforce on the specialized site Transfermarkt (that of F91 is valued at 2.06 million euros, that of Pyunik at 6.14 million), it is tempting to think that the tactical approach can make the difference. In any case, this is Fangueiro’s opinion: “With the strategy that we will put in place, it will be possible to overcome this obstacle”.
If so, the Luxembourg champions will see the 3e tour and Belgrade, a “quite motivating” prospect if ever there was one, and this time will ensure participation in the group stage of one of the three continental competitions, the Conference League in the worst case, i.e. six matches additional Europeans in the fall.
Equally motivating. But not scary. “If we pass this round, the difficulty will increase, agrees the Portuguese technician. But we know that in football, there are never really certainties. We played against a great team in preparation, CSKA Moscow, and we won 1-0, with style. Everything is possible.” And it will be even more so if the Dudelangeois hold their rank tonight in Yerevan.